Monday, March 9, 2015

Hawaii gets an A in education; new tests begin today; Legislature mulls rail tax, medical marijuana dispensaries, hospitals; OHA mum on geothermal money trail; Maui sugar cane burning continues; more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

courtesy Hawaii Department of Education
Hawaii classroom, courtesy state Department of Education
The U.S. Department of Education is giving Hawaii a flawless progress report on reforms that replaced provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law. The report, obtained by The Associated Press, shows that Hawaii received the highest mark of “meeting expectations” for all categories of monitoring. Only a handful of states achieved such high scores, the department said.

Starting tomorrow, schools across the state will begin a new wave of standardized tests. They're called the Smarter Balanced Assessments and they're part of the national Common Core standards approach. Hawaii Public Radio.

Crucial decisions on medical marijuana dispensaries, the future of Hawaii's public hospitals and a tax to fund Honolulu's financially struggling rail project hang in the balance as the Hawaii Legislature approaches a major deadline. All bills must pass out of their chamber of origin this week, and those that don't make the deadline will die. Associated Press.

Former Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie says that he never expected to be an elected official, and that if he hadn't run for the state's top public office, he was going to retire after his decades-long run as a U.S. congressman, he told Pacific Business News this week in an exclusive interview.

The state’s chief elections officer would have to undergo a performance evaluation after each general election under a plan approved by the state Senate. Associated Press.

Last month, in what has become an annual discussion point, state senators introduced a bill that would make it illegal, starting Jan. 1, for GMO food to be sold in the state unless it bears a label that reads, “This product contains a genetically engineered material, or was produced with a genetically engineered material.” Garden Island.

The Hawaii House voted Friday to keep its longest-serving member after a first-of-its-kind panel was convened to examine his residency and recommended that he stay. The chamber’s voice-vote decision regarding Rep. Calvin Say stemmed from a challenge over whether the Democrat lives in the district he represents. Associated Press.

Opinion: The “Lobbyist on Lanai” left a community torn apart by Big Wind. Carleton Ching's involvement with the proposed "Big Wind" project on Lanai flies in the face of the governor's empty statement that Ching "brings communities together." Hawaii Independent.

Opinion: Buffer Zones: Protecting Paradise From Restricted Use Pesticides. This is not an agricultural issue, it is a health issue. Hawaii needs to put in place pesticide buffer zones and other protective measures. Civil Beat.

NOAA aims to prevent capture of whale sharks. New regulations prohibit catching the gentle giants in specialized fishing nets. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

The biggest Army exercise in Hawaii in over a decade just wrapped up, with about 5,000 soldiers playing both friend and foe as the fictional nation of Ari battled another government and Islamic extremists across a made-up Asia-Pacific archipelago. Star-Advertiser.

Saving Waikiki Beach — At Least for Now. The city hopes to raise $600,000 annually from local businesses to combat chronic erosion, but some are balking at the proposal. Would the efforts merely stave off the inevitable? Civil Beat.

The Institute for Human Services, with support from the state’s visitor industry, has started running a shuttle between Waikiki and its Iwilei shelter to help the tourist district’s unsheltered homeless residents get on the fast track to housing. Star-Advertiser.

Five companies submitted bids this week to build the three rail stations in the Farrington Highway Station Group, which consists of the West Loch Station, the Waipahu Transit Center Station and the station at Leeward Community College. Hawaii Independent.

The union that represents HandiVan drivers believes disgruntled customers should be able to call the mayor, city manager or Transportation Service Department with their complaints.The management believes otherwise. Hawaii News Now.

A former school accounting clerk arrested last month for theft and money laundering allegedly used a Halau Lokahi Charter School bank card to rack up more than $5,200 worth of Amazon.com purchases — including several dozen rolls of design-printed duct tape — that were shipped to her Aiea home, according to court records obtained by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

Less than two weeks after Hawaii Electric Light Co. selected Ormat Technologies to build the Big Island’s next geothermal power plant, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is declining to answer questions regarding its investment in a company that submitted a competing bid, claiming that information is confidential. Tribune-Herald.

Thanks to Hilo resident Dan Marks, the United States may be on its way to a Constitutional Convention. The states have been asking to convene one for years. And as Marks found out, all he had to do was ask the right person to start counting. Big Island Video News.

Two federal assistance programs are holding up money for Native Hawaiian housing on parts of Hawaii Island because of unexploded World War II bombs and other munitions that have not been cleaned up. Associated Press.

A winter weather advisory remains in effect until 6 p.m. Monday for the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea summits, the National Weather Service reports. Up to 1 inch of new snow is expected to fall above 12,500 feet in elevation, forecasters said. The temperature will be in the lower 20s and visibility could be reduced to less than one-half mile at times. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

A dispute over the height of a Maalaea landfill has led to a warning letter from Maui County, the shutdown of the facility and a request for a ruling Tuesday from the Maui Planning Commission. Maui News.

Maui County Council members will take up Monday morning a bill that aims to provide "uniformity and parity" in agricultural real property tax assessments, according to an announcement from Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Riki Hokama. Maui News.

Sugar cane smoke will soon rise again over Maui as the state Department of Health continues its annual practice of approving a permit to burn fields without holding a public hearing, despite persistent requests of opponents who worry the widespread smoke endangers the health of island residents. Civil Beat.

A community meeting to address planned improvements to the Hāna Bay septic system is scheduled to take place on Thursday, March 12, 2015. Maui Now.

A Maui County Council committee will review a proposed resolution urging the state Board on Geographic Names to change the name of Iao Stream to Wailuku River. Maui News.

Kauai

A group of four Kauai County officials charged with trimming costs say they have identified close to $400,000 in salary and benefit savings for next year’s budget. Garden Island.

As the draft conservation plan and environmental assessment nears the end of its public comment period, officials at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge are already talking about changes they want to see. Garden Island.